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Thursday, August 27, 2015

European grant programs especially for SMEs. New round Eurostars good addition to the SME Instrument

Next to nationwide grants, there are also two European financial opportunities for innovative SMEs. But because of the popularity of the SME Instrument, organisations often forget Eurostars. And that’s a pity, as a dedicated SME program, Eurostars hasn’t to be forgotten. Especially for the reason SMEs can use the two programs in extension of each other.

SME Instrument: High grant potential, low success rate
The SME Instrument was introduced with the beginning of the European innovation program Horizon 2020 in 2014. And, as the statistics show, this grant program is very popular and still becoming more. To make an illustration, in the application period in December 2014, the number of applications increased with 18% in comparison to the previous round. The reason for this growth is because of the attracting grant percentage of 70 to 100% and the fact organisations can apply for their own, so are not required to collaborate with other innovative organisations. But, despite of the advantages, SMEs forget an important thing: as with the increasing popularity, the success rate decreases. At this moment, the European success rate of the SME Instrument fluctuates around 10%. So, to apply a successful proposal, it is important to have an innovation project that fits the central and previously set themes of the SME Instrument. And, it is way more important to connect with the innovation/development level, the so-called technology readiness level (TRL). To achieve the goals of the SME Instrument, the European Commission searches innovation with a TRL of 6 (demonstration of the innovation in a test environment). Which meant the SME Instrument is really intended for the last development steps before the market introduction. Also the business case should be worked out.

Eurostars: higher success rate, collaboration required
If a project does not fit the SME Instrument at all, Eurostars could be an interesting alternative. To give some advantages, as output of the program evaluation 2008-2013, organisations using Eurostars had an employment growth twice as high as other organisations. Furthermore, participating organisations have better access to external resources and their innovation output is way higher than non-participation organisations.

To make an equation, in contrast to the SME Instrument, Eurostars is intended for innovations in the stages of research and development (TRL 3-6). For this reason, innovations with a TRL below the threshold of the SME Instrument might fit Eurostars. Beside, Eurostars is available for all kind of technology subjects. Fit a topic is not necessary for this grant. Finally, with a success rate of 23% (last update June 2015) the changes for financial support will be bigger. But, as with the SME Instrument, also Eurostars has one disadvantage: the financial support is lower. Instead of the maximal eligibility of 100% for the SME Instrument, Eurostars projects will be granted with a for 50% with a maximum of 500.000 euro.

Both grants available until September, 17th.
At this moment, innovative European organisation can apply for both programs. The deadline for the two programs will be on September, 17th. Because the programs focuses on another part of the innovation process, they can be used complementary. And of course, also in this situation, the innovation project has to fit the topics of the SME Instrument.

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